City of Austin

The colorful approach is part of a project to enhance safety for both people and cars.

One of the busiest intersections in Austin, Texas, has gotten a makeover. White stripes adorn the barren pavement that once made pedestrians hesitant to cross, poles separate pedestrian space from the roadways, and stop signs now sit at every corner. Then there are all the polka dots, painted in green and baby blue.

They aren’t there just for decoration, says Anna Martin, traffic engineer for the Austin Transportation Department. The whimsical polka dots at the corner of East 6th and Waller Streets in East Austin are curb extensions, or “bulb outs,” designed to “give space back to the pedestrians.” Evenings and on weekends, the area, known for its walkability and bustling night life, is teeming with people.

Yet residents have complained that the intersection there is anything but friendly to pedestrians due to a lack of crosswalks or measures to slow down traffic. This specific intersection has seen dozens of crashes in 2015, according to local news channel KXAN.

(City of Austin)

In response, the city council decided to install four-way stop signs and dedicate what Martin calls “wasted no-man’s land” to pedestrians. But instead of building out the curb with concrete, Martin says they opted for a low-cost option using what they already had handy. And instead of regular white paint, they took colorful inspiration from various parklet and pedestrian plaza projects in New York City and Los Angeles.

The blue and green dots Austin is using, she adds, clearly define the pedestrian space, and they stand out just enough to make drivers slow down without causing a distraction. The upgrades debuted Wednesday, and so far the feedback has been positive:

“It's a testament to the character and energy of Austin,” says Marissa Monroy, public relations specialist for the city of Austin. “People are really excited to see a project that emphasizes safety but, at the same time, really shows that we like to have a little bit of fun.“

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A sign outside a storefront in Buffalo, New York.
    Environment

    Will Buffalo Become a Climate Change Haven?

    The Western New York city possesses a distinct mix of weather, geography, and infrastructure that could make it a potential climate haven. But for whom?

  2. photo: A vacant home in Oakland that is about to demolished for an apartment complex.
    Equity

    Fix California's Housing Crisis, Activists Say. But Which One?

    As a controversy over unoccupied homes in the Bay Area and Los Angeles reveals, advocates disagree about what kind of housing should be built, and where.

  3. photo: a high-speed train in Switzerland
    Transportation

    The Case for Portland-to-Vancouver High-Speed Rail

    At the Cascadia Rail Summit outside Seattle, a fledgling scheme to bring high-speed rail from Portland to Vancouver found an enthusiastic reception.

  4. A syringe sits on top of a car. Houses are behind it.
    Life

    The Changing Geography of the Opioid Crisis

    A new study shows that the country faces different opioid challenges in urban and rural areas.

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×